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Is LTTE serious about ceasefire?

The latest call for a ceasefire from the LTTE came less than three days after their air wing carried out another attack on Colombo.

world Updated: Mar 03, 2009 23:51 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis

The latest call for a ceasefire from the LTTE came less than three days after their air wing carried out another attack on Colombo. The attacks no doubt struck at the heart of Colombo but it left behind the rebels’ credibility as collateral damage.

The government’s response to the ceasefire call was quick. Defence Affairs spokesman Minister Keheliya Rambukwella described the call for a truce “hilarious’’, at a juncture when they are all but routed militarily.

The ceasefire appeal came close on the heels of many similar pleas made by the rebels in last few months. Recently, the pro-rebel Tamil National Alliance (TNA) claimed that the Tigers were ready for ceasefire if the Sri Lankan government was willing to halt its military offensive against them.

In late December, the LTTE said “only a permanent ceasefire mooted by the international community and negotiations’’ followed by it would resolve the conflict in Sri Lanka.

The repeated appeals for a truce have been interpreted by many as strong indications that LTTE were finding it difficult to withstand the military might of the Lankan army, several times bigger than its size. The sustained military campaign and the string of violent successes the army has claimed has taken the wind out of the LTTE sail, analysts say, which might still be fluttering, but only just.

The government gives two primary reasons for not heeding the ceasefire requests. One is that the military is on the verge of completing a successful campaign against the rebels; had Tamil civilians not been between the army and the LTTE, the rebels would have long been wiped out.

The second reason is that the LTTE, hiding behind the armour of a truce, have always replenished and rejuvenated their ranks and refurbished their weaponry. “It (the ceasefire) is a ploy used by the LTTE over two decades when it is about to be militarily defeated. Every time the LTTE is on the verge of defeat militarily and losing weapons and equipment, then it calls a truce,” Rambukwella told reporters.

Rambukwella went back to history to prop up his argument. “The Indo-Lanka peace accord by late Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi (in 1987) called for the LTTE to lay down arms and surrender. What they did was laying down arms and going back to the jungle to fight again against the security forces,” he said.

The six-year ceasefire between the government and the LTTE between 2002 and 2008 is peppered with thousands of armed violations, allegedly by both sides. It was during the ceasefire that the LTTE acquired an air wing.